DIET AND BRAIN FUNCTION: WHAT YOU EAT AFFECTS YOUR MOODS, EMOTIONS, AND ABILITY TO THINK
Just two short weeks ago, a group of elite university researchers from around the world (France, Netherlands, Australia, United States) put together a scientific paper for the journal Science of Food called Food for Thought: How Nutrition Impacts Cognition and Emotion. While little of this ‘Literature Review’ is what I would call groundbreaking, it’s beautiful seeing the whole enchilada laid out in a neat, orderly, thoughtful, and scientific fashion.
Since we’ve been hearing ‘you are what you eat‘ since our earliest days in grade school, my short review of their review will hopefully give you a taste of just how true this concept really is — that your brain is, for better or worse, affected by the foods you eat.
Defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over thirty (you can calculate your BMI HERE), the authors start out by letting readers know that one third of American adults fit the clinical definition of “obese“. They also revealed that the rest of the world is catching up (38% of adults and 18% of children and adolescents worldwide are classified as either overweight or obese).
Not surprisingly, “Cognitive and emotional dysfunctions are increasing” along with. When I was a kid, TYPE III DIABETES (aka Alzheimer’s) was rare. Today it seems like everyone knows / loves someone with PARKINSON’S, ANXIETY / DEPRESSION, ADD / ADHD, or generalized “Brain Fog,” characterized by an inability to think or make sensible decisions. And that’s just for starters; the list is truly endless.
Next, the authors pulled the rug out from under one of the most common beliefs widely touted by the medical community today — that much of, maybe even most of, the health problems that the average person deals with today are the result of bad genetics. As I have shown you time and time again on my site, in the case of the vast majority of disease processes, genetics actually plays second fiddle to something known as epigenetics.
Listen between the lines as these authors explain. “Next to our genetic makeup, the interplay between specific environmental challenges occurring during well-defined developmental periods seems to play an important role.” What are these “environmental challenges“?
They could be any number of things, including poor nutrition (either mother or baby). Or they could be be exposure to toxic chemicals / elements such as GLYPHOSATE or ALUMINUM. Or they could be exposure to the STRESS of a violent or harsh upbringing. It’s another list that’s truly endless.
Quick example of epigenetics. My house may have the best lighting system ever devised, but unless I actually flip the switch when I walk in the door after dark, the lights will not express themselves. In similar fashion, even though you may carry the genes for any number of nasty diseases, including those mentioned earlier; unless those genes are actually turned on, they won’t express themselves either. This phenomenon is known as EPIGENETICS and is (or at least should be) concerned not so much with whether you have this gene or that gene, but about triggers. What are the most common triggers?
For the most part, the things that trigger “bad” genes are bad habits or exposure to “bad” things. A great example is sugar (see OTTO WARBURG’S Nobel Prize winning work from 1931 on sugar and cancer). And case you missed Dr. Seyfried’s amazing video on this topic, HERE it is. To oversimplify it, bad habits turn on bad genes, leading to ill health.
The very next sentence provides the theme of this paper by revealing that “brain dysfunction most often co-occurs with metabolic disorders (e.g., obesity) and/or poor dietary habits.” While I certainly don’t want to discount what happened to you in you formative years (you’ll see this in a moment), the fact that epigenetics trumps genetics should leave you feeling empowered.
In other words, despite the message conveyed by deceptive and ever-so-clever advertising campaigns (VYTORIN COMMERCIALS a few years back come immediately to mind — it’s another crappy STATIN DRUG otherwise known as Ezetimibe / Simvastatin), in most cases your fate and health are much more up to you and your conscious decisions than your genetic makeup.
The next thing mentioned is that our collective diets lack many nutritional components, including antioxidants (we can change diets and habits!). If you want to see some really cool research on a major source of antioxidant power that you might want to start tapping into, make sure to take a look at YESTERDAY’S POST.
Honestly, this entire study can be broken down to a few short paragraphs…..
“Overeating, obesity, acute high-fat diet consumption, poor early-life diet or early life adversity can produce an inflammatory response in peripheral immune cells and centrally as well as having impact upon the blood–brain interface and circulating factors that regulate satiety. Peripheral pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines, chemokines, danger signals, fatty acids) can signal the immune cells of the brain (most likely microglia) via blood-borne, humoral, and/or lymphatic routes.
These signals can either sensitize or activate microglia leading to de novo production of pro-inflammatory molecules such as interleukin-1beta (IL1β), IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) within brain structures that are known to mediate cognition (hippocampus) and emotion (hypothalamus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex and others). Amplified inflammation in these regions impairs proper functioning leading to memory impairments and/or depressive-like behaviors.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), polyphenolics, and a positive early life environment (appropriate nutrition and absence of significant stress or adversity) can prevent these negative outcomes by regulating peripheral and central immune cell activity.”
Poor dietary choices such as overeating, etc, etc etc (we’ll talk about “acute high-fat diet consumption” in a moment*), lead to inflammation. INFLAMMATION is the collective name given to a group of immune system molecules that are at the root of virtually every health problem you can name (not to mention most of those you can’t), including OBESITY.
Among other things, inflammation opens up the body’s numerous barrier systems (including the BBB or Blood Brain Barrier), causing something I refer to as “THE LEAKIES“. Leaking epithelial barriers cause untold numbers of problems wherever they are found. One of the problems these authors mention specifically is the part of your brain is affected so that you can never feel full after eating (satiety is the medical word for this). The second they mention is that it ignites or “activates” your microglia.
MICROGLIAL ACTIVATION is serious stuff because it leads to so many potentially difficult-treat-problems (problems that are usually impossible to treat with the standard DRUG THERAPIES that are ubiquitous to our society). What does activation of the microglia do to people neurologically? As they mention, it affects memory, cognition, causes depression, screws up your moods & emotions, and generally fouls up your BRAIN.
And although they did not delve into it here, it is frequently a chief component of CHRONIC PAIN, including CENTRAL SENSITIZATION, which can itself be associated with SYSTEMICALLY INFLAMED CONNECTIVE TISSUES — something commonly seen in any doctor’s office. And although this phenomenon happens frequently in the adult population, it is not confined to adults.
“Neuroinflammatory processes, including the role of microglia, can clearly be impacted by neonatal diet and represent at least one contributing mechanism for how cognitive function is affected. Neuroinflammation and microglia can also be impacted by other early life events and play a significant role in how stress during development alters long-term physiology.”
Stop for a moment and ponder something. This statement should make people pause and contemplate the neuroinflammation and microglial activation that’s being PURPOSEFULLY INDUCED over and over and over again by vaccinations (including these FOUL BEASTS).
*A quick note on high fat diets. If people are doing high fat diets the right way (HERE or HERE), this manner of eating (aka ketogenic diets) has actually been shown to be neuro-protective as well as protective against cellular proliferation (CANCER). This is not my opinion but the opinion of a large and growing number of researchers. I would contend that our differences of opinion on this matter, as I have shown you many times previously, is due to the huge metabolic difference in fats (HERE). If you fail to consume healthy fats, everything mentioned is true.
Want to know why it’s so darn important to BREAST FEED your baby and then feed feed them a diet based on WHOLE FOODS in their developing years? Easy. If you fail in this, you increase the odds of future and permanent neurological deficits and dysfunctions.
Furthermore, just because you are breastfeeding junior; if you are sitting around eating Cheetos and Cheesecake all day yourself, you are sabotaging your good intentions. “Early life stress-induced alterations in the nutritional composition of the dam’s [mother’s] milk…. could have lasting consequences for brain structure and function.” Be aware that a form of stress that scientists have been talking about for decades is “dietary stress”. Among other things I suggest to combat this is getting plenty of omega three fatty acids. Speaking of Omega 3’s, listen to this….
“Abnormal omega-3 levels have been extensively described in both the peripheral tissues and in the brain of patients with mood disorders or cognitive decline, leading to a large number of random controlled trials aiming at evaluating the effectiveness of long chain omega-3 dietary supplementation on mood and cognitive disorders.”
This statement raises an interesting question. Why is the research all over the place as far as supplements (not just Omega-3’s) are concerned? We know that “abnormal omega-3 levels” are a major factor in ill health (study after study shows that the average American is consuming about 1/30th the recommended amount), yet some studies show positive results with supplementation, while others conclude it’s a waste of time and money.
My opinion is that it boils down to two issues. The first is that whether talking about nutrition or medications, MONOTHERAPIES are frequently not very helpful in isolation. Which brings us right into the second point; supplements are just that — a “supplement” to a balanced diet based on WHOLE FOODS.
Unfortunately, my experience is that the majority of people don’t really want to change their diets (at least don’t want to change them too much). Instead, they continue to hope that the supplements they are taking will solve their problems. In other words they are using NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS in the exact same way that the medical community is using drugs; trying to cover symptoms without really making the lifestyle changes required to change their physiology (HERE).
For the record, GRASS-FED BEEF as well as OZARK DEER (raised on acorns instead of GRAIN) are fantastic sources of Omega-3’s. Supplementing with FISH OIL, while potentially good, can be also potentially harmful (click the link to see why).
The authors go on to talk about FRUITS AND VEGETABLES as well as the effects of diet on the aging process.
“Aging and metabolic dysregulation are both associated with numerous cognitive and motor deficits on tasks that require fine motor control, balance, short-term and long-term memory, or executive function. Studies in both humans and animal models have demonstrated that oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as impaired insulin resistance, are common features in cardio-metabolic and vascular disease, obesity, and age-related declines in cognitive and motor function.”
And while it is certainly possible to make changes as you get older, by the very nature of things, these changes become more difficult, which is why waiting to change until you have visible symptoms is a fool’s game that leaves you vulnerable to a host of nasties that can destroy your life in incredibly unpleasant ways. In other words, it’s easier to stay healthy than to get sick and then try to play catch up.
Overall, I felt this was a valuable review, and would recommend you take 15 minutes or so to read it. It is exciting to see real scientists go from recommending old worn out drug therapies for everything, to suggesting dietary and lifestyle changes that can positively affect every cell, organ, and tissue in your body, ultimately leading to various degrees of better physical and (as proved by this paper) mental health.
It’s problematic that in this arena, the practicing medical community has lagged two to three decades behind current peer-review (HERE). Even though things continue to improve, don’t wait on your doctor to start making changes. Dr. Ken Sharlin, a neurologist and specialist in Functional Medicine in the Springfield area agrees (HERE).
Your health is up to you, and every day you fail to make the necessary changes, you increase your chances of ending up with a chronic inflammatory degenerative disease (HERE). Or maybe an autoimmune disease (HERE). Or maybe you’ll become one of the 100 million Americans living in chronic pain (HERE). Fortunately for most of you, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although I would never tell you to do something rash like stop taking your medications, my desire is that you created a plan of change so that your doctor can one day tell you that you no longer need your medications (HERE). And while some of you might require some sort of SPECIAL TESTING or continued medical intervention, many of you — probably the majority of you — can use some of the totally and 100% free information in THIS POST to start taking you life back.
While it’s not easy (nothing good in life ever is), the longer you stick with it, the easier it will get. Since there’s no time like the present, give yourself an early CHRISTMAS PRESENT and get started today!